HC Deb 07 May 1981 vol 4 cc259-60
9. Mr. Dormand

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will seek to introduce additional measures to combat vandalism.

Mr. Mayhew

Combating vandalism is a task for all sections of the community. The Government are playing their part by strengthening the police. We also propose to strengthen the powers of the courts to deal with young adult and juvenile offenders.

Mr. Dormand

Is the Minister aware of the great concern about vandalism? What action are the Government taking on the Central Policy Review Staff report of 1978? Does he accept that, although there is no simple solution to the problem, massive youth unemployment is a major contributory factor? Why are the Government complacent—as reflected in the main answer—about such a serious matter?

Mr. Mayhew

It is unjust to say that we are complacent about such a serious problem. There is no specific criminal offence of vandalism. It is normally associated with criminal damage, which has been increasing annually by about 10 per cent., so it is important to strengthen the courts' powers. The hon. Gentleman will have read the White Paper published at the end of last year. An increased police presence on the beat will help substantially, but many other matters are also important.

Dr. Mawhinney

Will the Government be introducing measures to enable courts to make parents pay for damage caused by their children?

Mr. Mayhew

That is a significant question. The White Paper sets out the Government's proposals to strengthen and clarify the complex provisions under which parents can be made to pay a fine or under which an order for compensation or costs can be imposed on a juvenile, which are important and valuable measures.

Mr. Edward Lyons

I endorse the need for an increased police presence in areas where vandalism prevails, and particularly where old people living alone are afraid, but does the Minister accept that violent crime among Asian youngsters is far below the average?

Mr. Mayhew

The hon. and learned Gentleman sits for a constituency with a high concentration of people of Asian stock. I do not have in my head the exact proportions, but I think that it is common knowledge that the record of the children of those people bears favourable comparison with others. But we must recognise that vandalism is a nation-wide problem. Its roots are complex and are certainly not to be found in any one factor. We must try to understand it and at the same time to protect the public from it.

Mr. Hill

Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that large council housing estates are generally in the forefront of vandalism? Does he agree that a security patrol financed by the local authority would give the elderly more protection and prevent excessive vandalism, which itself costs local authorities a great deal of money? Will he at least institute discussions along those lines?

Mr. Mayhew

I am sure that my hon. Friend is right to say that on many council estates vandalism is a serious problem. That may have something to do with design in some circumstances. I believe that any measures over and above those taken by police forces must be a matter for individual communities in consultation with the police.